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Posts Tagged ‘Hindi’

A look at the summer lives of four undergrads working on an environmental development project with the Foundation for Ecological Security.

Friday, July 17, 2009: Cribs: The Village Edition

Alice 1This week marked an important occasion: we moved into a village about 2 hours away from Udaipur and began working on our project. FES has asked us to make an assessment of one particular region with the eventual goal of developing a relationship with those communities and implementing environmental projects there. Our work this week mostly consisted of holding meetings with community members (all men) to create a map of the community’s resources and to get a general overview of life in the village. The meetings went well, although it can get really frustrating to watch people have an animated conversation in an inaccessible language and have to keep interjecting “what did he just say?” or “can you ask this?”. It’s hard not to feel like things would be much easier for everyone if the white girl in the corner with her notebook and expression of earnest confusion would just go sit in the jeep and eat biscuits. But we persevere, and so far the work is going well.

The living situation in the village is also better than expected; we have electricity (and a generator that helps protect against the frequent power outtages), running water (this one is actually pretty iffy, there have been some close calls with the toilet), and meals are provided. It should be mentioned that Asha is hands-down winning in terms of food consumption in India. This thoroughly endears her to every person who has cooked for us, and makes some of us look really bad. Skipping a meal is absolutely out of the question here, and people look shocked and a little frightened when one of us says that we’re not hungry. We’ve figured out a variety of ways to cope though (see Alice’s post on tiffin removal techniques).

The next two weeks will be similarly scheduled, with us “in the field” for the majority of week days and returning to Udaipur close to the weekend, so we won’t be close to a computer to update the blog frequently. We’ll update as much as we can though, and wish us luck seeing the solar eclipse on Wednesday!

Friday, July 24, 2009: “This is Truly A Most Auspicious Day”

Alice 2I managed to declare this phrase immediately before stepping into a large pile of cowshit in the middle of the street – but truly this week has been a little of the magical as well as mundane.

The “auspicious day” in question was the 22nd of July and our musings on it’s significance were largely due to the solar eclipse which Lizzy valiantly woke up at 5:30 am to run outside to catch only to return to bed defeated five minutes later declaring it was too cloudy to see anything. However, that was just the beginning.

Later on in the day during a village exercise in a place called Jakara Lizzy and I attempted to befriend a group of teenage girls. While at first they were painfully shy, as time went on we tried asking them questions that had been translated into Hindi for us by one of our colleagues, and we soon began to laugh together over our complete unintelligbleness (although it is quite possible they were laughing at us). They even taught us a game which involves picking up stones, similar to jacks, and at the end, as you do, we took a group photo with a goat.

That night we visited the house of our driver, Sunder, in the village which we were staying in. The house was made entirely of mud/clay and had an indoor stove which smelled amazing but made my eyes water the entire time. His 100 year old grandfather was there, we drank buffalo milk (delicious!) as well as something very akin to vomit that I made the mistake of taking seconds of to be polite. As we left an electrical storm lit up the entire sky, at times making the night look like daytime and sending clear lightning bolts across the sky into the forests and hills beyond.

Then, naturally, came the cowshit – sending me reeling hysterically holding on to Ari trying to scrape it off as we all just stopped and laughed at the general absurdity and irony of the proclamation I had just made.

As well as just the fact that, well, shit guys, we are in India.

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As a nine week intern in India, time is short and work is hectic. Although, I have limited time here, I was still able (with the support of the FSD site team and my co-workers) to implement and obtain funding for a project. The Institute for Local Self-Governance and Responsible Citizenship, my host organization, conducts bi-weekly, trainings for members of panchayati raj (India’s village government and representative system). The Institute does not have any substantial data that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of its trainings. This lack of evidence has started to become problematic for the NGO because donors and future investors want proof of the trainings’ positive impact.

In an attempt to help the Institute evaluate its trainings, get funding, and improve the quality of the training itself, my co-workers and I designed an interactive evaluation game entitled the “Rainbow Game”. This game is color coordinated by training categories. The rules and questions are simple. The game will be played by participants at the end of all six-day trainings. By recording the amount of incorrectly and correctly answered questions for each category, the institute will be able to document the amount of training information retained by representatives. In addition, the game will be fun, colorful, and easy to follow, especially since the majority of trainees are illiterate.

In the picture: From Left to Right: Ms. Varsha Jhanwar and Mr. Pratapmal Devpura edit the questions and answers section of “Rainbow Game”.

As a foreigner, who does not speak a word of Hindi, it was very difficult to design and develop a project. The work and living environment has been nothing less than challenging. However, it has been a positive and humbling experience. Since this is my first time out of my home country, it was hard to admit my vulnerability and deal with the fact that I am a burden to my host family and especially my host organization. Before the internship, I knew that I would be a drain on my organization’s resources, but I could have never prepared myself for the task of embracing my limitations while discovering which skills (that I possess) could be used to the Institute’s benefit.

My creativity, my determination, my adaptability, my pride, my previous conceptions about Indian culture, and especially my patience have all been challenged during my stay in Udaipur. Yes, the Indian work culture is at times frustratingly slow, but in order to make any difference I learned to adapt, embrace, enjoy, and respect this different way of life. Random power outages, six chai (tea) breaks a day, office gossiping, and the hierarchical work system can be wearisome at times. However, the atmosphere at the Institute has been by far the most enjoyable office environment. At work there is always an endless supply of jokes, laughter, invitations to homes and celebrations, curiosity, respect, challenges to video game competitions, and offers for rides home. It has truly been my honor and privilege to work at the Institute for Local Self-Governance and experience the good, the bad, and the quirky facets of India’s work culture.

In the picture: Taken from the rooftop restaurant Mehwar Haveli, this is one of many breathtaking views of Udaipur. It reminds me of something my co-worker and friend, Ms. Varsha Jhanawar, said to me when I was frustrated, “Ashley, you need to stop stressing, go take rest, and watch the sunset”.

Although I have felt uncomfortable, lost, and frustrated, the experience of working in Udaipur has been empowering in its own way. My project is nearing completion and will be implemented next week at a monthly training session on women’s empowerment for elected representatives of several wards (local districts). Despite the obstacles (such as language barriers, cultural differences, limited time, and disagreements over the development of the “Rainbow Game”), it will be used and played. To have left something not only beneficial, but sustainable has been acutely rewarding and significantly outweighs all of the negative experiences.

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